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Junior doctors to withdraw emergency care in escalation of action

Junior doctors will fully withdraw their labour, including emergency care, in an escalation of their industrial action, the BMA has announced – the first instance of this ever happening in the NHS.

A statement from the BMA said that the 48-hour industrial action planned for 26 April will now change to full withdrawal of labour between 8am and 5pm on 26 and 27 April.

This will follow earlier action – a 48-hour walkout on 6 April – which will continue as planned.

The chair of the BMA’s junior doctor committee Dr Johann Malawana said the Government had left them with ‘no choice’.

The committee had planned earlier this year to withdraw all emergency cover, but did not go through with the action as talks with the Government were progressing.

Junior doctors have already held a 48-hour strike since the imposition of the junior doctor contract, with two more planned for early and late April.

The BMA is also taking the Government to judicial review over the ‘embarrassing’ revelation that the Government failed to carry out an equality impact assessment before imposing a new contract on junior doctors in England.

Dr Malawana said today: ’No junior doctor wants to take this action but the Government has left us with no choice. In refusing to lift imposition and listen to junior doctors’ outstanding concerns, the Government will bear direct responsibility for the first full walkout of doctors in this country.

’The Government is refusing to get back around the table and is ploughing ahead with plans to impose a contract junior doctors have no confidence in and have roundly rejected.

’We want to end this dispute through talks but the Government is making this impossible, it is flatly refusing to engage with junior doctors, has done nothing to halt industrial action and is wilfully ignoring the mounting chorus of concerns over its plans to impose coming from doctors, patients and senior NHS managers. Faced with this reality what else can junior doctors do?’

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt last month announced that he was imposing a contract on junior doctors after talks broke down over the issue of evening and weekend pay, with the Government refusing to step back from its decision to remove ‘unsociable hours’ pay premiums from Saturdays and weekday evenings.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ’This escalation of industrial action by the BMA is both desperate and irresponsible – and will inevitably put patients in harm’s way.

’If the BMA had agreed to negotiate on Saturday pay, as they promised to do through ACAS in November, we’d have a negotiated agreement by now – instead, we had no choice but to proceed with proposals recommended and supported by NHS leaders.’

What the imposed contract includes

The junior doctor contract imposed by health secretary Jeremy Hunt includes:

  • An increase in basic pay of 13.5%;
  • Redefining the definition of ‘plain time’ to include Saturday from 7am to 5pm;
  • Paying a premium of 30% for Saturday ‘plain time’ working, if the doctor works one in four weekends;
  • Reduce the definition of ‘safe hours’ from 91 to 72 hours a week;
  • Doctors will not work more than four consecutive nights – down from seven currently;
  • The maximum number of consecutive ‘long days’ will be reduced from seven to five;
  • A new ‘Guardian’ role will be introduced, with the authority to impose fines for breaches to agreed working hours, which will be invested in educational resources and facilities for trainees.

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Readers' comments (75)

  • 9.40am is right! It is not a popularity contest. If it was then few people would see lawyers! No one wants to see a lawyer but they have to see them. If they don't they will potentially suffer.

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  • This battle will not be won through the strike action as such (strikes come and strikes go) but through the response of the public and the press to the strike action! Hunt will like the withdrawl of emergency cover as it will help him to get the press and the public on his side. Big mistake! Might make you feel good, but will contribute to loosing the battle.

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  • did I hear watching parliamentary debate that only about 50 % of English medical graduates end up being junior doctors in English NHS? Shocking.
    leave, emigrate, work for private or non healthcare sector. the NHS and it's leaders do not value you.
    I fully support all-out strike.

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  • Point of information: I was a medical student when the junior doctors went on strike over hours of work in the 1970s. They withdrew their labour from emergency care then. Consultants from all specialties saw patients in A&E in place of the juniors.

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  • I fully understand why our junior colleagues are doing this - but just cannot accept that doctors should 'strike for real'.

    The whole thing is too depressing for words.

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  • Striking also sendsout the message of we are humans, not robots with a vocation. Stick THAT in your pipe and smoke it Hunt.

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  • It is sad to note that the remuneration for Junior Doctors are much better than a clerk or a cleaner. These so called junior doctor is a misnomer, a lot of them are in their forties and fifties. Dignity for the medical profession will be eclipsed , if we do not pull through and get what we want. If the government has no money, they can cut services of the NHS drastically, but Mr. Hunt is determined to humiliate medical profession.
    Wake up BMA and other medical associations and fight more intensively.

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  • Just to be clear in 1975 the juniors did not stop emergency work (ask the BMA) I was spokesperson for over 200 junior doctors in NE England where they covered emergencies as normal. Mortality went down in the strike so I agree the evidence is that patients will be safe. However who believes that one death will not be spun by the government and press in order to vilify the juniors? That's the world we live in - please don't play into their hands just make the withdrawal of routine work for longer periods. Believe me it worked in 1975 and the public remained on our side (Vital)

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  • What is Jeremy hunt doing?
    He is driving the medics out of the country
    Some are now taking a year out
    Some are actually considering changing their careers
    If a thousand doctors are leaving the country each month
    There is already a shortage of doctors and nurses
    We are heading for a catastrophe .
    The 5000 doctors promised by Hunt is never going to happen because
    He has already lost thousands going abroad.
    These days young doctors are looking for
    Work life balance.
    If this is the plan to begin dismantling the NHS then Hunt should be honest and not
    Treat junior doctors and other medics in such a cruel way.
    Never has a country treated their doctors as this government has.
    Most elder doctors will no doubt be considering retiring especially with CQC
    Pressures on top of the professions increasing workload.

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  • You are spot on he should be honest and not treat doctors in such a cruel way. I cruely was forced out of medicine through revalidation flaws. I will always despise the government for this. There seems to be a drive to destroy doctors and I was one of the many ones destroyed through no fault of my own.
    I will support the strike fully.

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